Tarrant County officials this week used words like “fair and impartial” and “a very steady rock” in describing Elections Administrator Steve Raborn, who last month submitted his resignation to accept a job in the private sector and move back to his native Louisiana.
Such descriptions are high praise for an appointed public figure serving in a nonpartisan position during highly charged political times.
Raborn, who was hired as the county’s elections administrator in 2006, replaced the legendary Robert Parten, who had been in the position for 21 years before retiring and was considered one of the best administrators in the state.
At the time, county officials were saying Raborn would have big shoes to fill. Now they are saying the same thing about the person who will succeed him. His decision to stay on the job through the March 4 primary elections is a noble act, giving the five-member Tarrant County Elections Commission three months to find a successor who can fill those shoes.
Raborn presided over further introduction of electronic voting machines, the administration of voting during one of the biggest voter turnouts ever in the 2008 presidential election and the accommodation of political parties, municipalities, school districts and the county as changes in the law placed many of their elections closer together.
For almost three decades, Tarrant County elections have been carried out with very few problems, due to better voter education, greater accessibility to the polls and having a system in place to tally votes quickly. Much of the credit for that success goes to the elections administrator.
The elections commission must keep that record in mind as it searches for Raborn’s successor. Commission members are County Judge Glen Whitley, Tax Assessor-Collector Ron Wright, County Clerk Mary Louise Garcia and the two county chairs of the Republican and Democratic parties (that means the five include four Republicans and one Democrat).
Commission members have to look no further than Dallas County to know the selection process for this nonpartisan position can become very political. In 2011, the highly competent Dallas County Elections Administrator Bruce Sherbert was forced to resign by County Judge Clay Jenkins and Commissioner John Wiley Price, both Democrats.
An acknowledged friend of Price was chosen to replace him.
Tarrant County voters expect more from their representatives and should demand that they select a replacement who will be “fair and impartial” and “a steady rock.”